Saturday, March 23, 2013

And Away We Go

"Only love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky.
Only love can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high"

Despite the recent snow, and the forecast for perhaps more snow, spring is here. The record shows that last year was the warmest spring on record. This year may not be the coldest, but it sure hasn't been the most pleasant. The greenhouse is heated so with the start of seeding, the trays of newly seeded plants are comfortable. Because of the wet weather no plowing has been done. As has been previously mentioned, plowing wet soil is not good for the health of the soil. So, all the local farmers are waiting for a nice stretch of dry weather and are taking care of business to be ready to get their tractors into the field once the weather gods cooperate.

Over the winter months David invested a great deal of time going through various seed catalogs and planning what was going to be grown this season. As you'll read below, what gets seeded will be documented throughout the season. All the regular items will continue to be grown- kale, Swiss chard,  carrots, broccoli, 60+ varieties of tomatoes, beets, and so on. However, there will be some fun alternate varieties within these vegetables plus there will be some items that will be a little different than what you what expect. Overall a fun growing season is anticipated.

One big task over the winter was putting up a high tunnel in the field; think unheated greenhouse. David had assistance from his brother Peter in this endeavor. Z Food Farm became a true family endeavor with Peter's involvement in putting up the greenhouse. Having a high tunnel in the field allows a farmer to plant directly in the soil in a protected environment. This allows the farmer to have better control over the conditions that the plants are growing in- water, temperature, protection from bugs and disease. As an example- last season David's late planting of tomatoes was doing great. The plants were producing a nice crop of fruit and through mid-October David was bring farm fresh, tasty tomatoes to market. On October 13 there was a killing frost and then there were no more tomatoes (the frost also killed the pepper plants, eggplants, and summer squash). If the tomato plants, and the others, were living in a high tunnel ZFF would have had tomatoes for market through early November. With this said, David is excited and hopeful that this season he will have tomatoes into the beginning of November. A future post will have pictures of the high tunnel.

The semi-official start of farm season 2013 was March 5. On this date David's new intern, Rachel, joined him. They spent a chilly day split between cleaning up some remnants of plastic and row cover from the front field and cleaning the flats in which the seeds get their start. (For the record Rachel has been an excellent addition to the farm. She brings enthusiasm task commitment to the farm. Welcome aboard!!) The flats are first dunked in bleach water, then sprayed with a water/b.each solution, and then rinsed with water. The purpose is to clean the flats of dirt and bacteria. The plants are vulnerable enough to disease, cleaning the flats is one thing that can be done to lower some of the risk of disease.

The official start of the season was March 12. This was the day that seeding began. Starting with this post, and continuing over the course of the season, each days seeding will be documented. While this might not be 'exciting' to read, and at time a bit delayed (like this post), you will get a sense of the ongoing activity at the farm.

March 12- Various onions and one variety of shallots. A total of 53 flats were seeded. Each flat contained 128 cells and 5 seeds were placed in each cell. (That's 640 seeds per flat.) Five seeds per cell is more than will be used for most varieties of other plants. Part of this is due to the expected rate of germination of a specific variety of vegetable (the lower the rate of germination the more seed needs to go into a cell), and with onions the other part is due to wanting to plant the onions in 'bunches' once they are ready to go into the ground.

March 13- This was a slow day with only 7 flats of onions seeded.

March 14- A total of 59 flats of onions were seeded today. Some of today's onions were seeded in flats that had 72 cells (meaning that these cells are larger than flats with 128 cells; the flats themselves are the same size). Today's onions are your bulb onions, your typical larger sized onion, and need more space in the cell as they grow and develop. The onions from the previous two days are smaller in size both in development and at maturity. There is a definite reasoning that determines what variety gets started in what size cell.

The other days seeding will be listed in the next post. However, one bit of most excellent and exciting news: GERMINATION has started with some of the seeds. Regardless of knowing that the seeds have always germinated in previous years, there is an annual sense of vague nervousness and apprehension in anticipation of the first signs of life. Hours have been spent seeding and until the sprouts begin to show themselves there is uncertainty about whether all that work will pay off or have to be duplicated. Logically you know that things are going to be all right. Emotionally you are on edge. Once the sprouts have been sighted there is a sense of relief and excitement.

Though belatedly written it is hoped that this provides a sense of the beginning of the season. Stay tuned for more updates on a more regular (hopefully) basis.

Support local, sustainable, organic agriculture.

Here are David and Rachel washing out the flats.

March 5- a beautiful spring day in New Jersey.

The white 'balls' are row cover, the fabric that is placed over the vegetables as they are growing. The row cover helps to keep in warmth and provides some protection from some insects.  On the far left, leaning against the greenhouse are the hoops that provide support for the row cover. In the middle are bags that have been filled with soil that are used to weigh down the row cover so that it won't blow away.

A small portion of the newly seeded flats.

This is the sheet that David uses to keep track of the item being seeded, the date of seeding, the tray size, how many trays of that variety to be planted with the number of seeds to go in each cell, and whether the seed is to be covered with soil mix or vermiculite. 

Another picture showing the trays of seeds.

Peace and happy and healthy eating to one and all.

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